Ruaha National Park

The addition of the Usangu Game Reserve and other important wetlands to the park in 2008 increased its size to about 20,226 km2 (7,809 sq. mi). The park is about 130 kilometres (81 mi) west of Iringa. Ruaha National park is a part of the 45,000 square kilometres (17,000 sq. mi) Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem, which includes the Rungwa Game Reserve, the Kizigo and Muhesi Game Reserves, and the Mbomipa Wildlife Management Area.


The name of the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River, which flow along its southeastern margin and is the focus for game viewing. The park can be reached by car on a dirt road from Iringa and there are two airstrips –Msembe airstrip at Msembe (park headquarters), and Jongomeru Airstrip, near the Jongomeru Ranger Post. In some ways ecosystems in the Ruaha National Park represent a transition zone between the miombo woodlands common in Zambia and the more open savannah biomes, typical of northern Tanzania and Kenya. This is evident in the park’s vegetation, which is thick in some areas and yet wide open in others. The floral variety of Ruaha is mirrored by the variety of wildlife likely to be seen over the course of a few days on safari here.

Ruaha’s prolific game reflects this transition. There is a real mix between species more commonly associated with southern areas of Africa, and species which are widespread in the south such as; buffalo, zebra, Defassa waterbuck, impala, bushbuck, giraffe, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, greater kudu, also the more elusive roan and sable antelope. Grant’s gazelle and lesser kudu are also found here and are good examples of game that is more typically associated with areas further north. Ruaha National Park is also home to the largest elephant population found in of any Tanzanian national parks, with some 12,000 elephants migrating through the greater Ruaha ecosystem each year.

It is also an excellent park for predators. Lions are not only numerous and very habituated to vehicles, but the prides tend to be unusually large, often numbering more than 20 individuals. Cheetah can often be seen hunting on the open plains; and the park has a particularly good reputation for leopard sightings. It is one of the last major strongholds for African wild dog populations with more than 100 found here. Black-backed jackal and spotted hyena are both very common and easily seen, and the rarer striped hyena, though seldom observed, also lives here.

Ruaha’s birdlife is extraordinary, with over 580 species sighted in the park with an interesting mix of southern and northern species. Of particular note are substantial and visible populations of black-collared lovebird and ashy starlings, this is perhaps the only savannah reserve in East Africa where the crested barbet replaces the red-and-yellow barbet.

Along the rivers expect to find water birds like goliath herons, saddle-billed storks, white-headed plovers and the white-backed night heron. There are six species of both vultures and hornbills including the recently described Tanzanian red-billed hornbill.

Raptors are also well represented; with Bateleur and fish eagle probably the most visible large birds of prey and the localised Eleanora’s falcon quite common in December and January. Keen bird-watchers visit Ruaha National Park from mid-November to March, when migrant birds swell the numbers. Then a variety of waders appears along the riverbanks, together with flocks of white and Abdim’s storks. The sooty falcon arrives from the Sahara Desert, and the rare Eleonora’s falcon from the Mediterranean.

What to do in Ruaha National Park

During your Ruaha Safari Holiday there are a number of different activities you can engage in that will surely offer you a very memorable experience while in Africa as highlighted below


Game Viewing

Like any other Savannah park in Tanzania, the main activity in Ruaha national park is safari game drive. The park offers both day and night game drives with plenty of different wildlife species to encounter. An early game drive rewards with views of cheetahs, wild dogs, leopards, nocturnal wildlife and hunters among others. The afternoon drive creates an opportunity to encounter with kudus, zebras, hippos, impalas among others. These game drives are conducted in different parts of the park along Ruaha River, in the open savannah plains, Kopjes and along the forest.


Bird Watching

The park is one of the Tanzania birds’ paradise with more than 580 species and some of them are known to be migrants from within and outside Africa. Migrating species from Europe, Asia, Australian rim and Madagascar have been recorded in the park. Species of interest in the park include Ruaha red-billed hornbill (Tokus ruahae) which is dominant in the area. The recently annexed wetland, the Usangu basin is one of the country’s important bird area (IBA) as recognized by Birdlife International. Though birds can be seen all the year around, the best time for bird watching is during the wet season. The birding from December through to March is exceptional.


Guided Nature Walks

This is always the best way to enjoy the stunning nature of Ruaha national park. Take a guided nature walk alongside well-experienced local guides via well-established trails through the bush, swamps, shrubs and forests while sighting out different flora and fauna species the park offers.


Balloon safari

If you want a unique perspective on the beautiful landscape of Ruaha, yet still search for wildlife then a balloon safari is perfect for you.

WhEN TO VISIT Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park is accessible all year round, with most visitors arriving to adventurously tour East Africa in the dry season from June to October, when game congregates around water sources and is easy to spot wildlife in the dry, golden landscape. Sandy riverbeds focus spectacular concentrations of diverse mammals.

The wet season runs from November to May when game is more widely dispersed, dry sand rivers become torrents and arid miombo woodland becomes jade green and lush. A carpet of spring flowers flares into rainbows, butterflies and birds dazzle the eye and the breeding season for most ungulates and predators afford wonderful shots of new life.

In conclusion, a typical dry season park is the best time to visit Ruaha National Park since the game gathers around available water sources, offering unbeatable game viewing opportunities as compared to the wet season.

HOW TO GET To Ruaha National Park

The main gate of the Ruaha National Park is located in south-central Tanzania about 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Iringa and 625 kilometres from Dar es Salaam. Jongomero Camp is located 70 kilometres (43 miles) from the main gate. The park forms part of the Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem, which includes the Rungwa Game Reserve, the Kizigo and Muhesi Game Reserve and the Mbomipa Wildlife Management Area.

Due to its remote location, the best way to access the park is by air. There are frequent scheduled flights from either Dar es Salaam, Central Serengeti, Arusha and Zanzibar. There are several airlines serving this route, some of which include Coastal Aviation, Safari Link and Auric Air. All these airlines have a reliable service and credible safety record. Guests visiting Jongomero camp can fly directly to Jongomero airstrip. Approximate flight time from Dar es Salaam is between 1hr 20 mins and 2hr 30 mins (depending on type of aircraft and number of stops).


Ruaha National Park can also be accessed by road from Iringa. It is advisable to travel with 4×4 wheel vehicles. A journey by road from Dar es Salaam will take around 9 hours.